Deaf and a Vermont native, Christopher Tester is 38 years old. He is currently a Ph.D student at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. In addition, he is an interpreter, educator and an actor. He lived and worked in New York City for 15 years before moving to Scotland.
1) What does it mean to you to be deaf?
Being deaf is about being a part of the linguistic minority that uses sign language, and it is through that experience that has given me so many opportunities. To be deaf for me is to be a part of the sign language community. It’s not true for everyone. Additionally, my lived experience as a deaf individual has had a lot of positive influence on my life choices and opportunities.
2) When did you first gain access to ASL?
At a very young age, maybe 2 years old, when my parents realised/identified that I was Deaf. Took a while to figure out what was the best way, and they did attempt to teach me how to lipread-speak but to no avail, then tried ASL, and the rest was history.
3) How did you become an American Sign Language Interpreter?
Through encouragement of some colleagues when I was working at a human rights agency. I also was asked to do a favour of interpreting from BSL to ASL back when I was in college in England, so that piqued my interest in interpreting.
4) What is the meaning of “certified interpreter”?
Certified is the same as being qualified. It’s different everywhere, but in the US certified interpreter usually means the interpreter has passed the minimum qualification and exam, both in knowledge and skill, and we have to maintain the certification through continued education credits (restarts every 4 years).
5) What type of studies/training have you chosen in order to qualify as a Tactile ASL interpreter?
I have to admit, I do not have much training in tactile ASL interpreting. I learned through communicating with Deaf blind individuals within the community, and I took some workshops and learned some on the job. Not the best way to start, but it’s how I started. I would recommend a full training first.
6) How would you describe your experience at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh?
It’s has been good. The BSL team at HWU is great. Brilliant people to work with. I've learned a lot, and we all share our research interests/projects. Quite international too. Our sign language really ranges from IS to BSL.
7) What are some interesting differences between American Sign Language and British Sign Language?
One big difference is the alphabet. ASL is pretty much similar to LSF for the alphabet. Numbers too. Sometimes I feel like there are far more BSL variations than there are ASL variations. So many signs for numbers, colours, etc. can be a challenge sometimes.
8) Which interpreting services does New York guarantee to Deaf people?
This is a complicated question. We have a national law called the Americans with Disabilities Act, and that requires pretty much everything/place to provide reasonable accommodation. The challenge is the question of reasonable accommodation. Some may argue that providing an interpreter is too much of an undue burden. But the bottom line is, the deaf person can request an ASL interpreter if that is a reasonable accommodation and needed for their circumstance. Some may say it’s the captioning service that is reasonable accommodation and therefore do not need an interpreter. So ADA covers all places, public accommodation and government, etc. The next question is whether these entitites to comply to the law, and how did the deaf person request for such service and to whom.
9) Does this sole occupation earn you a living?
I am self employed, so I am involved in many different areas. I teach interpreting, I provide community basedtrainings, I interpret. I do some consulting services and I also provide translation services.
10) Have you ever had the opportunity to work with hearing interpreters?
I work alongside with hearing interpreters more often than not. When it is a good team, it's a great experience. I work with hearing interpreters in all types of work. I often work alone when I do translation work. I think people often forget that while we are working between two different languages is true, from spoken/written form to sign language and vice versa, we are just transferring language, but that is not true, we are also changing modality. I find that no matter the skill of the interpreter, deaf or hearing, it is a challenge to transfer modality from spoken to sign, that having deaf-hearing interpreter working together really enhances the process and makes the transfer more complete in both directions.
11) What do you think are the advantages of having a Deaf interpreter?
Many. I think one of the biggest thing is seeing a Deaf person express an idea or concept in a Deaf way, that makes it suitable for everyone. And there is something about seeing a Deaf person producing the information that one can relate to, and feel a sense of understanding/pride.
12) Do you think interpreting has something in common with acting?
Yes, I do in many ways. The interpreter cannot represent oneself, and instead have to represent someone else just like an actor. An actor has to personify someone else, and does not personify oneself. But an interpreter must also understand the contents. It is not enough to be fluent in both languages, one must also understand what it means and provide meaningful interpretation.
13) Are there, in your opinion, common aspects in both deaf and LGBT communities?
I haven't really thought about this, I'm not sure. I'm sure there are some correlations... need to think more on this. Deaf community is not one community, so I guess that is similar with LGBTQI communities. there's intersectionality to consider, the level of acceptance and identity. Also, one huge commonality I would say is the fact that Deaf people more often than not have to go through a journey to find their community, similar to a LGBTQ person who has to go through a journey to find the community. Most often both individuals are not born within the community. So that's the biggest similarity/parallel that I see between the deaf communities and the lgbtq communities.
14) What could your motto be?
Dare to think differently.
In questo articolo si parla di cultura, teatro, famiglia, viaggi, recitazione, new york, oriente, omosessualità, asl, docente, collaborazione, interprete, dottorato, sordi, team, articolo, Orgoglio, lingua dei segni, Michele Peretti, udenti, comunità sorda, interpretariato, sordocecità, Interpretazione, espressioni, BSL, Vermont, Scotland, LGBTQI, labializzazione, EUMASLI
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